A few hours ago I made my best friend watch The Chatroom with me because we had just finished watching Silent House (2011), his recommendation, and I thought it was only fair that I make a recommendation of my own. Scrolling through Netflix, I found The Chatroom (directed by Hideo Nakata) and settled on it without hesitance. I’d been meaning to re-watch it for some time now, and what better time than with an individual new to the film at my side. This way, I figured I’d be able to measure his reactions and get a better idea of what works and what doesn’t for this film.
Of course, I don’t mean to write an entire novel on the successes and failures of this film, and not because I can’t (because I can, I’m that crazy) but because perfection in anything is near impossible. No movie is perfect, as far as I know. So without further ado, enjoy!
The Chatroom is about a group of five teens that meet online in a chartroom called “Chelsea Teens!”, which was created by the main character William (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) for the sole purpose of captivating a chosen few to torment, and overall ruin. (Bit late for a spoiler alert, my bad.) In the film, the five quickly bond, but as their interactions increase, the other four teens, Eva, Jim, Emily and Mo (Imogene Poots, Matthew Beard, Hannah Murray, and Daniel Kaluuya respectively) soon come to realize that their chatroom’s moderator (Will) is loonier than a basket of cats. (You get that one?) In the end, after sabotaging their lives in some way, Will is discovered to be the dysfunctional creep that he is and is hunted down by Eva, Emily and Mo as he is in the process of trying to get Jim to commit suicide. In fact, this movie has many themes that can be analyzed in their own separate reviews, such as cyber-bullying, online stalking, depression, suicide, dysfunctional family relationships, loneliness, etc., the list goes on.
Thise leads me to my first thought on the film, which is: I wish it had been a TV show instead of a movie. In 97 minutes, the film presents us with seriously dysfunctional teenagers all seeking to form connections with others that are like them, or at least won’t judge them like the rest of the people in the “real world.” But in actuality, they are their own worst critics. Now, we do learn about their issues, but the movie simply did not develop them further than this, and so left me wanting to know more about each of them. Also, a few of the character’s stories kind of fell off the face of the TV screen as the movie progressed, such as Emily and Mo’s personal issues, and focused more on Will’s driving need to get Jim to off himself. Not only this, the second thing is that all the themes that the movie touches on could have been better developed, and presented, instead of simply giving the reader a feather of a touch, if it had been turned into a show, or even made into a longer (maybe two part) mini series. For example, I would have liked to see more of each character’s relationships with their families and the exterior world, as well as the relationship between the characters themselves, especially after the chaotic finale.
What I absolutely loved about the film, though, is it’s use of an actual space to represent the internet. Not only did this give the movie a unique edge, but it was also more visually pleasing than watching a bunch of teens typing on their computers for the greater duration of the film. I absolutely loved the setting, the run-down shady looking hallways filled with even stranger people, and the way each doorway had a name painted on it to represent different chatrooms.
While reading the reviews, however, I did see that there is mixed sentiment about this movie. Certainly, it is not a 5 star movie, but an easy 3 if not 3.5. The fact that a few story arcs were abandoned, and that the characters were a bit over-dramatic at times, does not change the fact that the actors did a pretty stupendous job, and the setting itself was quite amazing. The fact that it uses a chatroom, instead of other social media, makes the film that much more interesting to me; because, nowadays, chatrooms are not as popular as they used to be. I was of the generation of Yahoo Chat, and remember it being shut down in 2012 due to all the controversies it created. (And all the creeps that inhabited it.) So, this movie kind of makes me remember those times when I was just starting High School and thanking my lucky pajamas that I’d gone to a Charter School instead of a regular public school. Otherwise, I would have really had a time of it, and might not have made it out in one piece. (Granted, bullies would not have walked out in one piece either, courtesy of me.) The point I was making though, is that chatrooms were one of the ways cyber-bullying/ stalking/ pedophilia / etc., started to come to light, as it was the easiest way for creeps to pray on youth.
Thus, I would gladly recommend The Chatroom to anyone interested in suspenseful films of this kind. It is, though a bit vague at times, a wonderful movie that gives insight into the dysfunctional mind and human connection.
Please let me know what you think, if you have any questions, or would like to recommend me anything in particular. (I’m always open to recommendations!) Thanks for reading.